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England kick-start Six Nations defence with bonus-point win against Italy

Eddie Jones’ men had too much for an Italian side that showed promise at Twickenham.

England 41

Italy 18

EDDIE JONES’ ENGLAND kick-started their Six Nations title defence with a bonus-point win against an Italy team that showed plenty of promise in Twickenham.

jonny-may-scores-a-try Jonny May athletically finishes his first-half try at Twickenham. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

The reigning champions had suffered a shock home defeat to Scotland in round one and were always likely to deliver a strong response but the Italians made their lives uncomfortable at times and will feel they got no luck with refereeing decisions.

England had more than enough quality to overcome the challenge, though, and notched six tries in a game that was also notable for the sickening knee injury suffered by replacement flanker Jack Willis at the breakdown.

England held a 20-8 lead at the half time break and though Italy had further bright patches in the second period, Jones’ men had the guile and power to finish strongly.

The returning Kyle Sinckler, back from suspension, was named man of the match after a good outing at tighthead prop, while right wing Anthony Watson bagged a brace of tries, and Jonny May, Jonny Hill, Willis, and Elliot Daly also dotted down. 

There were doubts around several of the England scores and Italy boss Franco Smith is sure to have some gripes in that regard, but his young team showed further potential with some sharp attacking play prompted by 20-year-old out-half Paolo Garbisi.

With a rest weekend to come next weekend, England can now start preparing for their third-round visit to Wales, while Italy’s next game sees them host Ireland in Rome on 27 February.

monty-ioane-scores-his-sides-first-try Monty Ioane scores early on for Italy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Italy started superbly, with Monty Ioane scoring his first Test try as he won his third cap, a clever offload from number eight Michele Lamaro and then sharp handling freeing the Benetton man down the left wing. 

Farrell got England onto the scoreboard soon after with a penalty and they nudged in front thanks to lock Jonny Hill powering over from close-range after a series of narrow carries from the forwards. 

But penalty concessions from Maro Itoje and Luke Cowan-Dickie allowed Italy to level through the boot of Garbisi as the game headed into the second quarter, which saw England take control.

First, a lethal kick return attack from England ended with right wing Anthony Watson stepping back inside Italy scrum-half Stephen Varney to score and then, just before half time, Jonny May conjured a remarkably athletic finish wide on the left as he leaped up and beyond the despairing tackle attempt of Luca Sperandio – with referee Mike Adamson happy it hadn’t been dangerous play by the England wing.

Italy scored first in the second half, Garbisi’s penalty closing the gap to 20-11 just after his cross-field kick had freed Ioane for a big breakout from inside his own half, fending Elliot Daly on his way.

anthony-watson-scores-his-sides-fourth-try Anthony Watson races clear for his second try. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Italy out-half then had a frustrating moment as Watson made an excellent read to intercept his pass outside England’s 22 and scorch home for his second try. Joy Neville on TMO duties drew Adamson’s attention to a possible late tackle by Farrell on Varney soon before the try but the Scottish referee decided there was nothing in it.

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England had their fifth try just as the game entered the final quarter, replacement scrum-half Dan Robson going close off a clever quick-tap penalty and Jack Willis barrelling over from close-range a few phases later. 

There was, however, a lengthy delay shortly after as Willis suffered a horrific knee injury as he jackaled at the breakdown, Adamson calling a swift halt to play. The sub England flanker received treatment on the pitch and was then carted off. 

Italy scored immediately upon the restart, with Federico Mori making his impact felt off the bench by picking an excellent line to finish his first try in international rugby.

But England responded again, with fullback Daly crossing for their sixth try as they saw out a deserved victory.

England scorers:

Tries: Jonny Hill, Anthony Watson [2], Jonny May, Jack Willis, Elliot Daly

Conversions: Owen Farrell [4 from 6]

Penalties: Owen Farrell [1 from 1]

Italy scorers:

Tries: Monty Ioane, Federico Mori

Conversions: Paolo Garbisi [1 from 2]

Penalties: Paolo Garbisi [2 from 2]

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill; Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

ITALY: Jacopo Trulla; Luca Sperandio, Juan Ignacio Brex, Carlo Canna, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi (captain), Marco Riccioni; Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi; Sebastian Negri, Johan Meyer, Michele Lamaro.

Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Danilo Fischetti, Giosu Zilocchi, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan, Federico Mori.

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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